Five-year veteran Kevin Seraphin (left) is one of the league’s few remaining pure back-to-the-basket post players, and he believes his 20-pound weight loss over the summer has made his go-to shot a bigger weapon. (Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post)

When Kevin Seraphin signed a contract to play for $150 a month on a French semipro team in 2006, the coach urged him to learn a basic yet potent shot: the jump hook.

Seraphin, then a keen 17-year-old, heeded the advice. He would be at the team’s chilly gym for practice at 8 a.m., two hours before sessions started, to launch 50 hooks with each hand. He repeated the drills after practice. Eventually, he incorporated the jump hook in games and ascended the ladder, earning a $1,000-a-month semipro contract, then a $4,000-a-month professional deal, then a 2011 first-round NBA deal.

Now the 6-foot-9 forward’s jump hook is the base for an offensive game that has carved him a spot in the Washington Wizards’ rotation.

“Once my two feet are set [and] I take my time, most of the time I make it,” said Seraphin, 24. “Sometimes guys jump or contest me and I don’t see the rim at all, and all I know is I finish it and it just goes in. I don’t see the rim at all. I just know. When I do that, it’s automatic.”

The Wizards spent this past summer addressing their front- court depth with the additions of Kris Humphries and DeJuan Blair, a pair of rugged veterans. The two moves meant a more difficult path to playing time for Seraphin, who signed a $3.8 million qualifying offer to remain in Washington after his playing time and production plunged last season, in part because of a lingering right knee injury.

The Post Sports Live crew debates whether the Wizards' 5-2 record proves that this team is better than years past. (Post Sports Live/The Washington Post)

But Seraphin has established himself in Coach Randy Wittman’s rotation with the Wizards (6-2) off to their best start since 1975-76 . While Seraphin’s defensive lapses and hurried sequences leave Wittman hoarse on the sideline, he provides a potent low-post scoring option off the bench.

Seraphin had a season-high 15 points on 6-for-7 shooting in 22 minutes against the New York Knicks on Nov. 4, and four days later he had 13 points on 6-for-8 shooting in 20 minutes. Over the Wizards’ past five games, he is averaging 8.8 points and shooting 66.7 percent in 18 minutes. The key to Seraphin’s success, Wittman has reiterated, is that he has been able to slow everything down.

“The last couple games, he’s been more precise in what he’s doing,” Wittman said. “When he’s precise in what he’s doing, that means he’s taking things in and reading what’s happening out there rather than just going no matter what the defense is doing.”

Seraphin’s production isn’t a revelation. He has exhibited flashes of potential since Wittman replaced Flip Saunders as coach during the 2011-12 campaign. Up to that point, Seraphin played sparingly and was reluctant to use his jump hook left-handed. But Wittman implored him to develop his off-hand, and Seraphin became a starter after JaVale McGee was traded in March 2012.

The Wizards provided Seraphin with video of Hakeem Olajuwon in the hopes he would emulate one of the sport’s greatest centers. With that guidance and with increased playing time, Seraphin’s confidence spiked — and the lefty hook emerged.

“I would always go right, right, right,” Seraphin said. “I was working on my left, but I was always going right. Everything was right. Then the year when Wit got hired, I just got a huge confidence, so my left started coming naturally.”

Seraphin is one of the league’s few remaining pure back-to-the-basket post players, and he believes his 20-pound weight loss over the summer has made his go-to shot a bigger weapon. He has regained the explosiveness he had when he arrived in the United States and is quicker off his feet, and his 264-pound frame allows him to establish position easily. The result is a nearly unstoppable shot he admits he occasionally deviates from simply out of boredom.

The decision-making has irked Wittman. The coach repeatedly has explained that Seraphin hands the opponent an advantage every time he elects not to go with his jump hook when the defense isn’t stopping it. There is no reason to go to a counter move if the first one is available, Wittman has said. If Seraphin sticks with the hook, Wittman believes, he could become an even more effective low-post presence.

“We were just talking about that with Coach today,” center Marcin Gortat said Thursday. “If he scores two, three times in a row with the right hand, keep going to it 300 more times until they stop you.”

That has rarely happened. Seraphin has hoisted the jump hook thousands of times with both hands, and to his recollection, it has been blocked only once. John Henson, a lanky 6-11 center then with the Milwaukee Bucks, was the blocker. Seraphin was stunned.

“I was surprised because he jumped way, way before,” Seraphin said. “That’s how he got me. I was really surprised.”